28 January 2011

BLOOMing brilliant!


Carrying my books and other stuff to work this week has been a real pleasure. Why? Because the new handbag I bought in Siem Reap is just brilliant!

Now, those of you who know me well know that I'm not a slave to fashion. I don't buy labels, I have no clue about the latest fashion trends, I don't know what's 'in' or 'out'. So, it may seem very strange to find that I'm writing about my handbag.

Ah, but this is more than just a handbag! Not only is it unique, colourful, practical, hardwearing, roomy, functional and, for me, a travel memory, but it is also a protest statement. My bag is the product of BLOOM Cambodia, 'a social enterprise established in Sept 2006 with the intention of providing fair-paying jobs to disadvantaged Cambodians. BLOOM is not a factory. We are a small workshop of ten people who spend our working hours dreaming up and making original, quality bags, all hand-made from recycled rice and fish feed bags.'

I strongly support BLOOM's philosophy. It's along the lines of that old adage: 'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.'

BLOOM believes 'there are too many NGOs in Cambodia and that the country is too reliant on NGO money' and 'regular and constant handouts create a dependency mentality that is ultimately detrimental to Cambodian people.'

'There are many people helping Cambodian children, but BLOOM believes that it is just as important to help Cambodian adults, specifically, by providing jobs. As long as parents do not have a stable, secure life, their kids will never be stable and safe. Jobs provide regular income, which in turn provides stability, security, and a sense of the future.'

So, BLOOM set up their workshop, giving disadvantaged women fair wages and a happy working environment, teaching them skills so that they can earn their own living. I like this! And I love their manifesto!

THE BLOOM MANIFESTO

·                     We believe in the right of all people to a decent life, free of poverty and with access to education
·                     We believe you will be enriched helping the poor
·                     We believe workers should always be paid a fair wage
·                     We believe if you knew the truth, you would not be an accessory to the exploitation of workers
·                     We believe exploitation is evil
·                     We believe in the power of good over evil
·                     We believe in the power of the individual to bring about change
·                     We believe your bag is a reflection of you - are you really a sheep?
·                     We believe quality is worth paying for
·                     We believe women hold up half the sky
·                     We believe in love at first sight - at least where our bags are concerned!
·                     We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of handbags!